If Santa Claus is going to be doing any shopping outside his North Pole workshop in 2010, he'll have to bring his own reusable bags or enough money to defray the extra cost of the plastic carryout bags at nearby retail stores.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough in Alaska which includes the city of Fairbanks and the unincorporated community of North Pole will place a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic carryout bags beginning Jan. 1 at retailers with $1 million or more in annual sales.
The only other U.S. city that has approved a tax on plastic bags is Washington, D.C., which in June approved a 5-cent tax on all paper and plastic carryout bags at grocery stores, drug stores, and retail food establishments that goes into effect in January 2010.
There is a 5-cent tax on plastic bags in Toronto, Canada's largest city. Seattle voters in August rejected a proposed 20-cent tax on plastic and paper bags.
The 5-cent tax in Fairbanks will apply to most large grocery stores, discount chains and bookstores in the borough, which has an estimated population of 100,000 and is similar in size to New Jersey.
The bill was introduced and passed Sept. 10. Nadine Winters, the local assembly member and presiding officer who proposed the bill, said the goal of the tax is to reduce waste and create an economic incentive for customers to use reusable shopping bags.
Retailers will be able to keep 3 percent of the funds they collect. The remainder of the money will be used by the Fairbanks borough for recycling programs.
There are 10 plastic carryout bag bans in the U.S., five of which were enacted this year including one in Edmonds, Wash., a town of 40,000 located northwest of Seattle. The Edmonds ban, approved July 28, will go into effect Aug. 27, 2010.
In addition, two small Alaskan towns, three counties on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and Palo Alto, Calif., also recently passed plastic bag bans. The ban in Hooper Bay, Alaska, went into effect in August; the ban in the North Carolina counties of Hyde, Dare and Currituck went into effect Sept. 1; and the Palo Alto ban goes into effect Sept. 18
The plastic bag ban in Bethel, Alaska, goes into effect Sept. 1, 2010.
Westport, Conn., Maui County in Hawaii and the California cities of San Francisco, Fairfax and Malibu also have bans on plastic carryout bags.
A ban on plastic bags in Manhattan Beach, Calif., that covered 217 stores and restaurants was overturned in court, but the city plans to conduct an environmental impact report in an effort to gain state approval for implementation of the ban.
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